Hi. In this blog post I’m writing about how anxiety manifests itself within me. I won’t be referencing my lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and self-doubt here as they are pretty much constants within my life and I will refer to those in future posts. However, anxiety isn’t a constant. It comes and goes, often without warning, and when it does, it manifests itself in certain ways. This may well be the most difficult YYCDI post I’ll ever write as I’ll be describing feelings and situations which I’ve spent many years desperately trying to hide. However, if I’m going to do justice to this blog, I need to share this detail.
I’m very conscious that I do want this blog to be positive and inspiring. However, in order to do that, I first need to describe what I experience and how this shapes my thinking. Therefore, I need to write 3-4 blog posts of a more negative nature before I can start sharing positive content. Next week I’ll discuss the lack of self-confidence I experience, whilst the following week will delve into what I believe to be the root causes of my issues. Following that, from post #5 onward, I’ll attempt to turn this around and begin discussing content which I hope will be more upbeat and optimistic, so please do stick with me!
One thing I must state before I continue is that I am in no way a medical expert (no surprise there to those of you who know me!). My views within this or any other blog posts are solely that – my views and in no way underpinned by any medical expertise or theory.
Anxiety can strike me at any time but, primarily, it tends to hit when I’m in situations in which I feel uncomfortable. I can’t ever recall a time when this has happened when I’ve been on my own, or when I’ve been with people / in situations in which I’m fully at ease, i.e. when with my wife and daughter, or my parents. It always happens when I feel vulnerable, or when I feel that people are watching me and judging me (one of the root causes I’ll be writing about in a couple of weeks). When it does strike, there are 2 or 3 symptoms which occur time and time again. The first is a quickening of the heartbeat and a tightening of the chest. Not to the extent that I feel that something untoward will happen, though the sensation is certainly there. I can sense it building inside and know that something is not quite right. This doesn’t happen to the extent that it’s debilitating but it does act as something of a warning sign that anxiety is about to kick in.
However, the main symptom, the constant which occurs every time this happens to me, is breaking out in sweats. Sometimes mild but often really quite pronounced. When this happens, my internal thought process often makes the situation much worse. I know when it starts to happen, quite often I fear it is worse than it actually is, and that culminates in actually making things much worse. The real issue with the sweating is that it is a visible manifestation of anxiety. A tight chest and quickened heartbeat are internal and invisible to others, and therefore much easier to deal with, whilst sweating can be quite clearly seen by others. I have a tendency to overthink things and worry about what others will think. I try to suppress the anxiety; to will it away. On rare occasions, this has worked, though not often. The only real solution is for me to find a quiet, safe place and wait for a few minutes until normality is restored. For instance, there have been occasions at work when I have bolted for the toilets, simply to buy myself a few minutes to get back to normal. On some occasions, this has happened to such an extent that I’ve removed a drenched shirt and held it under the hand-dryer in a desperate attempt to hide the evidence that something isn’t quite right. This happens more in situations where I feel I’m under close scrutiny by others; at work, whilst gigging, situations when the focus is on me for whatever reason. These are the times when anxiety tends to rear its ugly head. It would be easy to counteract this by shying away from such situations; to not gig, to get a job in an environment that isn’t based in a large open-plan office; to not be as socially active and stay at home more. Though that isn’t how I want to live my life and I’m damned if I’m going to miss out on a whole host of life-enriching opportunities purely because of this thing we call anxiety.
This has been really difficult to write. I’m laying bare something I’ve tried hard to hide for the best part of 20 years and really feel that I’m exposing myself here. I honestly don’t know if I’m alone in experiencing what I’ve written or if anxiety manifests itself in this way in other people. However, I have to put this out there. If just one other person recognises what I’ve written about and takes a little solace in knowing they’re not alone, then this is worthwhile. Next week I’ll discuss the lack of confidence / self-belief I have and the effect this has on me.
Until next time.